Bihar Assembly Elections 2015

Grudge match for campaign chiefs

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with his media adviser Prashant Kishor after the win.  

If the Bihar election had been termed a grudge match between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, then their campaign chiefs too had a history that made it another great moochon ki ladai (high-stakes game).

JD(U) campaign strategist Prashant Kishor and BJP chief Amit Shah had worked together once on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 electoral triumph, but one got the glory, the other fell out with the main team.





Mr. Kishor, formerly with the United Nations and considered to be the brains behind campaign innovations such as chai pe charcha in 2014, left the team after some differences between him and Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah.

The victory of the Grand Alliance has brought some measure of closure to more than a political contest. Mr. Kishor told The Hindu “that today is the day for those who have won, like Nitishji, Laluji and the Congress, not me”, but sources close to him revealed that victory in these elections had been vital to him not just because of his election management firm, the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), but also to make a point on just how credit for Mr. Modi’s 2014 poll victory had been divided.

Mr. Kishor’s strategy was centred on how to occupy mindspace in the media and in public discourse, in the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s undoubted abilities to grab centre stage.

“We decided that this has to be done by baiting him on Twitter — so before his rally in Muzzaffarpur we made Nitishji ask him four questions on Twitter. We knew he would not back away and would answer these questions,” said a source close to Mr. Kishor.

Sure enough, Prime Minister Modi began his speech by answering some of those questions and was therefore led away from his prepared speech, which gave Mr. Nitish Kumar a tangible presence on the rally stage.

The JD(U) also took the lead with har ghar dastak (or a knock on every door) where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would do door-to-door campaigning. Party workers and even hired help were deployed; 30 cyclists per constituency, for a stretch of 10 days each to reach out to 50 houses a day. Baiting Mr. Modi and Gujarat-born Amit Shah on the Outsider Vs Insider gambit was also used.

To counter Mr. Modi’s giant rallies, smaller, more intimate meetings of Mr. Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav were held, separately.

“This election is not just about social coalitions and mandate, it’s also about two methods of fighting election. One is all shock and awe of big rallies, using your best campaign bet repeatedly without imagination, the other is the more methodical way. The latter won today,” said an associate of Mr. Kishor.


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 9:00:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/bihar2015/grudge-match-for-campaign-chiefs/article7858602.ece

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